Rotherham didn’t have it easy last season, but they did what was necessary to back up their promotion from League One with more than one season in the Championship. They have one of the most passionate managers in the league and have recruited well so far this summer.
Last Season: Championship (21st)
Manager: Steve Evans
GKs: Scott Loach, Adam Collin
DFs: Kirk Broadfoot, Richard Wood, Frazer Richardson, Joe Mattock, Lewis Buxton, Danny Collins, Tom Thorpe, Greg Halford
MFs: Lee Frecklington, Paul Green, Conor Newton, Richard Smallwood, Aidy White, Emmanuel Ledesma
FWs: Jordan Bowery, Danny Ward, Matt Derbyshire, Jonson Clarke-Harris, Jerry Yates
In: Aidan White (Leeds United), Joe Mattock (Sheffield Wednesday), Lewis Buxton (Sheffield Wednesday), Emmanuel Ledesma (Middlesbrough), Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest), Tom Thorpe (Manchester United), Greg Halford (Nottingham Forest)
Out: Mark Bradley (Released), Richard Brindley (Colchester United), Robert Milsom (Notts County), Mat Sadler (Shrewsbury Town), Tony Thompson (Released), Craig Morgan (Wigan Athletic), Ben Pringle (Fulham), Danny Rowe (Wycombe Wanderers), Kari Arnason (Malmo FF)
First Six: MK Dons (H), Nottingham Forest (A), Preston North End (H), QPR (A), Fulham (H), Charlton Athletic (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-5-1) Loach – Halford, Buxton, Thorpe, Mattock – Bowery, Frecklington, Ledesma, Green, White – Derbyshire
A word from…Guy Branston
On the difficulty of the step up It’s an incredible challenge, in 18 months you can go from League Two to the Championship and you enter that league as a real outsider and it’s very difficult.
But the Rotherham of now is very different to the club we had back then, we were playing down at Millmoor and we had a group of lads who were probably on no more than £2000-per-week. But I think we shocked a few with our commitment, we surprised some opponents, it was a crazy time, no matter what league we were in we were having a right go.
On the current club I’m always looking out for how they’re doing and their results, they’ve got a top manager in Steve Evans, he’s a real character and together they’ve all got Rotherham going in the right direction. The Championship is what a club like Rotherham should always be striving for and if they can get anywhere further up the field then that would be great.
They came back in that play-off final, they had players who were experienced in that division, a good budget and he did the job. It was a bit different under Ronnie Moore, he had to go and do a bit more research and pick up players from the lower leagues. We all had our own aches and pains but Ronnie managed that. Steve has a good budget but it’s about picking the right players, making sure they’re better than what you’ve got and so far he’s managed that.
On defensive stability I think Rotherham through the years have always had good centre-backs, you need that, every club should have that. It used to be two defenders who would kick and head the ball away but obviously nowadays it’s about having one that’s comfortable on the ball and coming out from the back.
I think it’s incredibly important that replaced (Craig) Morgan, they’ve tried to do that, they’ve brought in White and Mattock, the kind of players who can get up the pitch and they’ve brought in a couple of central defenders. They were conceding goals last season because the opposition got better, not because Morgan was a bad player. They’ve got good defenders but they’ve just got to make that step up.
On what it takes to succeed That’s where those managers who win the Championship kick on and continue their success, they find the players that nobody else knows about, it’s about consistency but it’s also about having that extra bit of quality that can win a game in a split second.
You’ve got to have a good recruitment and Steve’s been allowed to go out and get what he wants, I don’t think he has many more boxes to tick. They’ve got good staff, a good atmosphere, people who are well established throughout the football league.
When you’ve got that mix of staff and players who are all moving in the right direction then you’ve got a chance, but if you don’t use your budget wisely it can be disastrous and things fall apart.
On improvement Goals were the problem last season, the forwards and midfielders didn’t get enough and the defenders didn’t keep them out. Scoring goals is easy to understand but it’s harder to execute and you’ve got to find a really good balance in players that have the right character but also the right quality.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: New signings will need time to gel and Rotherham can’t afford a slow start. Three strong teams have come up and it’s hard to see the club being anywhere different to the area they spent most of last season in.
Key Player: Matt Derbyshire – Goals win games and Rotherham need someone to find the back of the net regularly to escape danger this season. Derbyshire has plenty of experience and a cool head, he could be crucial.
One to Watch: Tom Thorpe – Incredibly highly rated by Manchester United fans, the defender now has a true taste of first team football, if he replicates the talent shown whilst captaining the Old Trafford reserves, he could be a steal.